Where Are They Now? Celtic’s Three Amigos

Celtic Paradise

In 1996/97, Rangers would go on and secure their ninth title in a row. But in a lot of people’s minds Celtic were actually the better team on the eye and often more entertaining to watch.

The Hoops would finish the season only five points behind the eventual champions. Celtic manager Tommy Burns had fashioned together a very attack minded team.

Three players in particular stood out and they were named the ‘Three Amigos‘ by the then Celtic supremo Fergus McCann, who had a run-in with all three forwards. Those three men were Pierre van Hooijdonk, Jorge Cadete and Paolo Di Canio.

The three left in 1997 after fall-outs with McCann over wages. Basically they wanted more money and McCann was never a man to accept that kind of demand.

But what happened to the ‘The Three Amigos’?

Pierre van Hooijdonk:

Pierre was signed by Celtic for a fee 0f £1.2m from NAC Breda. He joined in January 1995 and scored against Hearts on his debut. Then in May of that year, Van Hooijdonk became a firm fan favourite with his Scottish Cup winning goal as Celtic beat Airdrie 1-0 to win their first trophy in six years!

He was a big tall striker that was equally as good in the air as he was on the ground. Had a stunning strike on him and was a huge threat when stepping up to take free-kicks.

In the famous 96-97 season Van Hooijdonk would hit fourteen league goals in twenty-one appearances. But then things would seriously unravel when he requested a better deal from McCann.

Pierre would go on radio and state:

“£7,000 may be good for a homeless person, but £7,000 a week is not good enough for a top class forward”

That statement didn’t go down well in Glasgow’s East End pubs or in the boardroom and McCann would sell him to Nottingham Forest for a £4.5m fee in the March before the season’s end. He would score 56 times in 72 goals in all for Celtic.

Van Hoojidonk would struggle initially in the Premier League and couldn’t help save the club from relegation in 97. He would then bang in twenty-nine times and help Forest bounce straight back into England’s top flight. His form there would earn him a spot in the Netherlands World Cup 98′ squad.

But then controversy reared its ugly head again as Van Hooijdonk returned from the World Cup disappointed by the club’s summer transfer activity. After the club refused his transfer request the striker would throw his toys out the pram and he’d go on strike!

Discussing his forwards actions, Forest manager Dave Basset said:

“He’s entitled to his view but – sod him basically.”

He stayed away from the City Ground until November, by that time he knew that he wasn’t going to get his own way and that the footballing world was firmly against him. He famously scored against rivals Derby County, yet none of his teammates would celebrate with him. Nottingham Forest would finish bottom of the Premier League that season.

After that fiasco he’d return to his homeland and join Vitesse Arnhem. He’d spend just one season back in the Eredivsie scoring twenty-five league goals. Pierre would then spend a season in Portugal with Benfica and would again score regularly.

After his spell in Portugal, he would once again return home and this time Feyenoord was his destination. He would play 79 times for the Rotterdam club and score an incredible 62 goals. He’d become a club legend after helping them to a Uefa Cup victory in 2002, seeing off Rangers on their way to the final.

Van Hoojidonk would then join Turkish side Fenerbahçe and help them to league title before returning to NAC Breda and then finishing his career off with a second spell at Feyenoord.

A superb goalscorer but you wonder what might have been had he learned to deal with certain issues in the proper manner. He’s since stated that he was wrong to leave Celtic the way that he did and that he shouldn’t have went on strike during his stint at Forest.

Nowadays Pierre van Hooijdonk works as a TV Pundit in his homeland. He was the victim of a £2m act of fraud and is the agent of current Celtic forward Nadir Çiftçi.

Paolo Di Canio:

Tommy Burns managed to persuade Paolo Di Canio to change Milan for Glasgow.

Di Canio was a gifted forward but he was also pretty temperamental. His famous exchange with Ian Ferguson during the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park showed him at his craziest and also at his most passionate.

Whether it was his goals,  runs, tricks or his different coloured Pantofola d’ora boots you couldn’t miss Paolo on the football field.

Van Hoojidonk and Cadete would love playing with Di Canio as he could make chances out of nothing. He was named the Scottish players player of the year after the 96/97 season ended.

It took him a bit of time to get used to the rough and tumble of the Scottish game but he never turned his back on a fight and boss Tommy Burns was always there to put an arm around the Italian’s shoulders.

So when Burns was sacked in the summer of 97′, Di Canio would express his extreme displeasure at the decision:

“At this moment I feel Fergus McCann has made a mistake because Tommy Burns was a good manager for me.”

Di Canio would then complain about his Celtic deal. Really he was just eyeing a move away from the club and he refused to join the Hoops preseason trip.

Celtic would ‘trade’ him for Sheffield Wednesday’s Regi Blinker plus cash. The least said about Blinker the better, but Di Canio struck 15 times in his one and only season at Parkhead.

After a bright first season with Wednesday, Di Canio’s career would nosedive after he infamously shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground and he’d receive an eleven game ban. He would never play for the Owls again and in January 1999 he joined Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United side in a £1.5m deal.

Di Canio would spend the next four and a half years with the Hammers where his style and passion made him a club legend. Supposedly Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him for Man United but his heart belonged to West Ham. Fifa would award him with a Fair Play Award after he chose to catch a cross rather than score into an empty net while Everton keeper Paul Gerrard lay on the ground injured.

He would also score one, if not the, best Premier League goal of all time for the Irons, with a near perfect volley.

After departing West Ham in 2004 the ageing forward then moved to Carlton Athletic and helped them to a seventh place finish in the Premier League.

He would then rejoin his boyhood heroes Lazio and spend two seasons with ‘I Biancocelesti’.

In Rome he would score in the derby game against Roma. But while he enjoyed a close relationship with the clubs ultras, he had a strained relationship with the club president and his deal wasn’t renewed. His return to Lazio was marred by his political views and his insistence to produce facist salutes to the stands.

He retired as a player after two seasons with lowly Cisco Roma. Di Canio would then become a manager in England winning the League Two championship with Swindon Town and overseeing Sunderland survival bid in 2013.

But his fiery temper was never too far away and he’d continually fall-out with players and eventually lose the dressing rooms.

He has since made it clear that he would one day like to manage Celtic. But that appointment looks unlikely given his poor record with playing personnel and his far right political views. Earlier this month he was suspended from Sky Italia from his punditry job after various complaints from viewers regarding his visible facist tattoos.

Jorge Cadete:

A player I knew of before he joined Celtic as he produced a brace as Portugal slaughtered Scotland 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier in 1993. Three years later and the long-haired hitman would rock-up to Celtic Park.

His transfer would cause serious problems between Celtic and the SFA after the deal was seemingly being held up by the SFA without much or any reason, thus meaning he missed an Old Firm game. That would spell the end of Chief Exec Jim Farry at Hampden.

In his only full season at Parkhead, the Portuguese striker he would grab 33 goals in 44 matches in all competitions and that made him the country’s top scorer. He would come alive when he received the ball in the box and could score all kinds of goals.

Had a flashpoint in an Old Firm derby when he had a goal wrongly chopped off during the New Year match that could have saved the Hoops at least a point in that contest.

Cadete was another who enjoyed his time working under Burns, and the Celtic boss even invited his chief goalscorer over to enjoy Christmas dinner with him and his family.

Cadete said this of Burns:

“It will always mean a lot to me that it was Tommy who gave me the opportunity to wear the Celtic shirt. I had a very strong connection with him from the first time we met.”

Unfortunately Jorge too felt he couldn’t stay in Glasgow beyond 1997 and like Di Canio he stayed away from preseason training citing that he couldn’t settle and had mental health issues. Like the others he made it known to the press that his contract at Celtic wasn’t good enough and that he wanted to leave.

He’d join Celta Vigo for a £3.5m fee and then after one full season there he would join Benfica. That move saw him reunited with Van Hooijdonk but by that time Cadete had lost his goalscoring touch. Uninspiring loan spells at Bradford City and Estrela da Amadora soon followed.

Jorge would then retire from football, star in Portugal’s celebrity version of Big Brother and then he returned to football where he’d end up at Patrick Thistle of all places. That was after being snapped in a Raith Rovers strip after supposedly agreeing to sign for them first. His return to Scotland was short and goalless.

He would then join two lower league Portuguese sides before retiring for a second time in 2007.

After two failed marriages and poor speculation with his finances, it was reported that Cadete was living with his parents and that he was close to being broke.

Jorge Cadete has since stated that he wants to become a coach. In 2015 he announced on his Twitter page that he has become the general manager of União Futebol Clube de Almeirim. It was recently suggested in the Portuguese press that Cadete was interested in going to Angola in a bid to kick-start his coaching prospects.

Sadly Jorge recently announced the passing of his father and I’d like to pass on my condolences.

These three men will forever go down in Celtic folklore but their ultimate greed denied them legendary status. They all shared a good relationship with the late great Tommy Burns and it’s just a shame that they couldn’t help him win a title at Parkhead. 

One Response to “Where Are They Now? Celtic’s Three Amigos”

  1. Its a true saying,Money Talks BS Walks.Pity they werent Celtic at Heart.Takes a Special Kinda Player to Fill out a Hoop Top and wear it with pride.HH

Leave a Reply